Go to references for smacking down alt-right online grooming
February 24, 2018 9:32 AM   Subscribe

This Twitter thread was shared in the current US politics megathread, and it made me realize I do not have handy references for explaining to people why, say, Jordan Petersen is a problem. I’d like to fix that.

Do you have a handy list of references that can be used to refute or combat the alt-right’s online grooming and recruitment practices in real time? Go to strategies?

Or know of a place where this info can be centralized?

Share ‘em if you got ‘em!
posted by schadenfrau to Human Relations (20 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Peterson's a tougher nut to crack, since he's not quite as much of a Nazi ape as the rest of the Daily-Wire-to-Daily-Stormer pipeline. He's consciously stayed away from open racism and anti-semitism, for example, despite immense pressure from his fanbase.

Still, he's promoted plenty of wacky garbage and many of his arguments make no sense. Rationalwiki has a good compilation of his pseudoscience and bad philosophy (though it doesn't include his Penn State denialism) that can be used as a resource to dissuade any potential fans that still retain some critical thinking ability.
posted by Rust Moranis at 10:26 AM on February 24, 2018 [6 favorites]

[Couple comments deleted. If you don't have an answer to the question, just skip it.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:32 AM on February 24, 2018

PZ Myers has been smacking down Jordan Peterson lately.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:16 AM on February 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

I do not have handy references for explaining to people why, say, Jordan Petersen is a problem.

my problem with Jordan Peterson is that he's not half-wrong about a bunch of stuff (and he's got the data to back it all up), which tends to occlude the fact that, like a classic conspiracy theorist, he can't help but keep pointing at the same inflated bogey men (or perhaps persons) "behind it all", which is the Radical Feminists (TM) and/or the neo-Marxist Post Modernists (TM) ... and even on a bunch of that stuff, he's not ALL wrong.

In fact, the best analysis I've found of where he does get it quite wrong is anything but succinct, but rather Peter Rollins rambling analysis of Slavov Zizek's recent thoughts on Peterson. If I could narrow it down to a few words, it would be along the lines of Peterson being a special kind of obsessive, using all kinds of solid empirical evidence to support some ultimately dubious propositions. Which yeah, is dangerous.

Do you have a handy list of references that can be used to refute or combat the alt-right’s online grooming and recruitment practices in real time? Go to strategies?

Weirdly, I'm not a hundred percent convinced that Peterson is such a bad path for a potential alt-right type to stumble down. He is on the record as being opposed to them, and in fact claims he's really just somewhere in the middle, a classic British Liberal, interested mainly in the problems of the Individual. I do think he's got some squirrelly ideas and biases (as noted above), but as this recent talk with Russell Brand illustrates, he's really anything but a black and white ideologue. And he vapes.

yes, I have found myself down a Jordan Peterson rabbithole of late, mainly as a result of looking for evidence that he's WRONG, but coming to realize he's more of a walking-talking metaphor for the WTF nature of the culture these strange days.
posted by philip-random at 1:41 PM on February 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

This is my favorite Peterson takedown. He's also pretty openly transphobic.
posted by zeusianfog at 2:40 PM on February 24, 2018

People in these communities are often drowning in despair and susceptible to corruption by charismatic, lucid evil offering them what seems like the only lifeline. From the twitter link you shared.

Given this scenario, a first step is surely to first listen to people who are drowning in despair and looking for an easy lifeline. To not be a personification of the supposed "cultural-marxist" boogeyman who is "smacking down", but rather to be a nuanced, empathetic person willing to listen. Some people in early stages of "grooming" will talk themselves out when they realise they can't actually elaborate on their supposed new worldview beyond their Jordan Peterson one liners slightly sheepishly (this is a much better conversation in person or at least DM than via public humiliation online). Others you might have suggestions for better paths they can follow (e.g. Some Abraham Maslov stuff or Alan Watts stuff about authenticity is far less mean spirited and just as engaging as JP). Others will at least have to experience some cognitive dissonance between the portrayal of the hardline liberals and the lived reality of talking to a liberal who is interested in their experience of the world and concedes on fair points (ie Jordan Peterson's riffing at times on being heartfelt in interpersonal relationships is lovely, although I disagree with other stuff he says).

Motivational Interviewing (Miller and Rollinick) is a huge and well researched branch of psychology which has also been expanded to brief intervention by various non-specialists which looks at how people change. The basic principal is that humans are inherently defensive and "smacking down" leads to people burrying their head in the sand, whereas listening, having realistic expectations about our own efficacy, and finding common ground can work much better.
posted by hotcoroner at 8:56 PM on February 24, 2018 [6 favorites]

Jordan Peterson exists to shut down things you consider important by accusing you of being too "uppity."

So you care about social issues or world politics? That's cute, maybe you should go clean your room though before you start trying to save the world. You wish you had a girlfriend or a better job but you play video games? Real men don't play video games they're busy founding companies and attracting harems of women.

It's a lot of gatekeeping and self-hatred porn. JP followers get off on being told in a condescending way why they're failures at life. The worst part is most of them don't really apply the small fraction of useful advice to their own life, rather they just turn around and parrot JP tactics at other people to inflate their own sense of superiority.

IMO the best way to beat JP enthusiasts is to just dismiss him as another flimflam self help speaker. If you can strip away the veneer of "radical insightfulness" JP gives and toss his advice in the conversation bin with the likes of Gwenyth Paltrow or Tony Robbins people suddenly start to find him a lot less inspiring.
posted by laptolain at 8:49 AM on February 25, 2018 [4 favorites]

this just popped up on my Facebook.

Postmodernism - Special Report

Doesn't name Jordan Peterson by name but it rather nails what's wrong with much of his anti-post-modernist rhetoric.
posted by philip-random at 11:43 AM on March 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

This review by Pankaj Mishra of Peterson's 12 Rules For Life may be of interest. Talks about Peterson's selective moral outrage, and how his appeals to a mixture of myth and pop science has a lot in common with previous fascist critiques of society.

The review doesn't mention the self-help aspect of his writing, which I think is an important part of why he has so many followers. This Mic piece focuses on that aspect of his persona and I think gets at why he's such a modern conservative darling.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:43 AM on March 25, 2018

This isn't really a resource but his reaction to that NYRB review is pretty telling/funny.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:45 AM on March 25, 2018

Okay, last link of the day! This takedown at Current Affairs, which I found via PZ Myers, is an incredibly thorough critique that illustrates, by quoting him directly and extensively, how his work tends to either be obvious, vacuous and inconsistent, or corrosively wrong. Probably the best response to him that I've read.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:15 AM on March 25, 2018

Did this link get posted yet? Jordan Peterson and Fascist Mysticism (Pankaj Mishra in NY Review of Books). A follow up: Sorry, Jordan Peterson: rage isn’t a great look for a self-help guru (Nesrine Malik in The Guardian).
posted by eviemath at 7:24 PM on March 25, 2018

Not useful for purposes of the question, but perhaps uplifting humor for readers interested in this thread: Jordan Peterson or Islamist Cleric? on Twitter.
posted by eviemath at 7:25 PM on March 25, 2018

Also somewhat related
posted by eviemath at 3:45 AM on March 26, 2018

Canadaland podcast on Peterson as a media phenomemon
posted by eviemath at 4:23 AM on March 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

I like the sub-text for that podcast:

Why did an obscure Canadian psychology prof suddenly become an international media star?
It’s a much better question than “is he right or wrong?”

posted by philip-random at 11:01 AM on March 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Jordan Peterson Resource Page by Noah Berlatsky.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:54 AM on April 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Jordan Peterson - Bumbling Cult Leader or Delightful Satire? (Elizabeth Sandifer, Eruditorum Press)
When I first set out to write this piece, I expected to be penning a vicious takedown. But after watching hours and hours of videos, I remain in awe at Peterson’s accomplishment.

Never before have I encountered such a complex, intelligent, and daring work of satire. This “Jordan Peterson” character is the most cutting-edge performance art I have ever encountered. No sincere leftist commentary has ever exposed the link between seemingly banal conservativism and borderline-fascism in such an easily understandable way. This one-man-show is the bumbling Canadian answer to Laibach. As an expert in pseudo-academic nonsense, I have to salute my superior on this one.

“Jordan Peterson” is a work of parody known as stiob: “an overidentification with the person or idea at which it is directed and that it is often impossible to tell if stiob is sincere support, ridicule, or a mixture of the two.” Stiob arose from the late Soviet years, during the Brezhnev era. There are many eerie similarities between that time and our own – the government was largely ran by a cadre of septuagenarians, wages had stagnated, yet all official narratives insisted that there was no alternative. The horizon of possible futures was closed. Into this fray, a new form of parody emerged, one that was often indistinguishable from the thing it was criticizing.

Take, for example, the Slovenian industrial band Laibach. Their artwork and performances are rife with totalitarian imagery, which leads many to wonder whether or not the band themselves are fascist. Laibach can be seen as an example of “stiob”, employing a strategy of subversive affirmation or over-identification in order to tease out truths that cynical distance could not. It is not “satire” as we would usually understand the word.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:48 PM on April 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Jordan Peterson's Murky Maps of Meaning (Paul Thagard, Psychology Today)
Long before Jordan Peterson became a bestselling author and YouTube star, he wrote a book called Maps of Meaning. The ideas in this book are the basis for his popular online lectures and recent book on 12 Rules for Life, which I critiqued in an earlier blog post. Published in 1999, Maps of Meaning is a long and ambitious synthesis of ideas on mythology, morality, and totalitarian atrocities. How well does it stand up to critical evaluation?

Scrutiny shows that Peterson’s Maps of Meaning is defective as a work of anthropology, psychology, philosophy, and politics. Its emphasis on religious myth and heroic individuals provides a poor blueprint for understanding the origins of totalitarianism, and an even poorer guide to overcoming its evils.

The meanings of the word “murky” include both “dark and gloomy” and “not fully explained or understood.” Peterson’s book is murky in the first sense, with frequent emphasis on suffering rather than on the joys of love, work, and play. The book is also murky in the second sense, although it is less meandering and disjointed than his videotaped lectures.

[many examples and refutations]


Peterson’s ideas are a mishmash of banal self-help, amateur philosophy, superfluous Christian mythology, evidence-free Jungian psychology, and toxic individualistic politics. Seek enlightenment elsewhere.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:13 PM on May 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

"Jordan Peterson, Custodian of the Patriarchy" in the NY Times - doesn't have a lot of analysis, but zeroes in on some of the areas where he is particularly problematic.
posted by eviemath at 3:05 AM on May 20, 2018

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